THE YOUNG KAPELLMEISTER (1880-97)
MAHLER'S poverty during the years of his musical apprenticeship was chronic with him, as well as endemic in the circle of his friends. It was shared to the full by Hugo Wolf, Hans Rott, Hermann Bahr, Guido Adler, the brothers Krzyzanowski and others befriending him during those years. Work as a composer seemed to hold out but little prospect of material success after the rebuff suffered at the hands of the jury for the Beethoven Prize, and employment as piano tutor in Vienna, Jihlava and occasionally in Hungary found but meagre reward. Reluctantly Mahler decided for the career of operatic conductor, mainly for financial reasons, since he was probably quite unaware of his rare, almost uncanny talents in that direction.
His conducting career, begun at the age of twenty, which was to lead him within seven years to the very top of the profession, started inauspiciously enough in the summer of 1880 at Hall ( Upper Austria), where he was engaged on Epstein's recommendation to conduct musical farces and comedies, to tidy up the orchestra pit after performances and occasionally even to push the perambulator containing his director's infant. In his spare time he continued to work furiously on the much-revised score of Das klagende Lied and on his operatic projects. The short season at Hall was followed, after a prolonged Viennese interlude, by a long season at Laibach (Ljubljana), where conditions were no less ludicrous. However, his genius as a conductor began to assert itself at the Landestheater of the crown-land of Carniola. He even managed to get through a performance of Gounod Faust with a single male chorister, but was truly glad to get back to Vienna again, whence he departed for the third time to a conductor's post at the theatre of Olmütz (Olomouc) in Moravia, where he started work in a wellnigh hopeless mood in January 1883. Although this theatre too seems to have been in rather a poor condition, its director's ambition led to Mahler's conducting operas by